Thursday, February 27, 2014

2014 Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Feb 27–Mar 6

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival, a co-presentation between Human Rights Watch and TIFF, returns for its 11th year in Toronto with eight films that bravely bear witness to human rights violations in Canada and around the globe, and make an impassioned call for social change through their empowering stories of perseverance, resilience and hope.

Featuring selections from Cambodia, Tanzania, Pakistan, Egypt, Israel, France, the United Kingdom and the USA, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival opens at TIFF Bell Lightbox on February 27 with The Square (2013), director Jehane Noujaim’s (Control Room) thrilling documentary chronicle of activism, unrest and revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and closes on March 6 with the world premiere of Canadian director Matthew Smiley's hard-hitting documentary Highway of Tears (2013).

Narrated by Nathan Fillion (Castle), Highway of Tears chronicles the notorious, decades-long string of murders and disappearances of young Indigenous women along British Columbia's Highway 16. Addressing similar issues to Those Who Take Us Away, the 2013 report released by Human Rights Watch, the film explores how this systemic violence is linked to the effects of generational poverty, residential schools, and high unemployment rates on First Nations reserves. TIFF and Human Rights Watch welcome the film’s director Matthew Smiley and producer Carly Pope alongside Human Rights Watch researchers in the Women's Rights Division, Samer Muscati and Meghan Rhoad for a special introduction to the screening. Meghan Rhoad is also the author of Those Who Take Us Away.

Other highlights include Harry Freeland’s In the Shadow of the Sun (2012), an intimate and emotional documentary that follows two Tanzanian men afflicted with albinism — a condition viewed with superstitious fear and murderous hatred in their country — as they pursue their dreams in the face of virulent prejudice; Rithy Panh’s 2013 Un Certain Regard prize-winner, The Missing Picture (2013), which uses handmade clay figurines and detailed dioramas to recount the suffering of Panh's family at the hands of the Khmer Rouge regime following the communist victory in Cambodia in 1975; and director Yuval Adler’s first feature, Bethlehem (2013), about a young Palestinian man who is recruited as an informant by the Israeli secret service Shin Bet, and finds himself caught between two very different kinds of loyalty when he discovers that his employers are plotting to assassinate his radical brother.

All screenings will be highlighted by introductions or discussions by filmmakers, Human Rights Watch researchers, or experts in the films’ subjects.

"We no longer live in a world where we can plead ignorance. For those seeking the truth, our festival offers personal and poignant glimpses into the world of survivors who in turn inspire us to care, to become active in the fight for human rights around the globe," said Helga Stephenson, Chair of the Toronto Human Rights Watch Film Festival. "This is a festival of incredible characters and a festival of

“These films are timely, powerful and cinematically engaging, and speak to vital and pressing issues from around the world,” added Magali Simard, Programmer, TIFF.

This year’s lineup also includes first-time feature filmmaker Marta Cunningham’s Valentine Road (2013), which investigates the 2008 murder of openly gay California teenager Larry King by his school crush Brandon McInerney and paints a shocking portrait of the homophobia, sexism, racism and classism that inform the lives of America's youth; Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Academy Award–winning Saving Face (2012), which addresses one of Pakistan's most unique, and horrific, social problems — the alarmingly frequent acid attacks on women, many of them perpetrated by spouses or other close family members — through the stories of two survivors attempting to bring their assailants to justice and move on with their lives; and a startling look at global

capitalism in action with award-winning documentarian Rachel Boynton’s Big Men (2013), which takes audiences inside the rapacious world of the global energy industry.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival launches with a fundraising Opening Reception on Thursday, February 27 at 6 p.m. at Malaparte (350 King Street West, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 6th floor), prior to the 8 p.m. screening of The Square. Cost is $100 per person (includes reception and film ticket). For tickets to the Reception, please call 416-322-8448 or email

Tickets to the Human Rights Watch Film Festival are available now. Tickets are $12 ($5 for students). Discounts apply for seniors/members. Tickets can be purchased online at, by phone 416-599-TIFF(8433) and 1-888-599-8433 or in person at the Steve & Rashmi Gupta Box Office, Reitman Square, 350 King Street West, Toronto.

The full lineup of films and list of guest speakers are as follows:

The Square, dir. Jehane Noujaim
Egypt/USA | 2013 | 99 min. | 18A
BlackBerry People’s Choice Documentary Award Winner, Toronto International Film Festival 2013
“The historically essential document they’ve created here pulses with an immediacy that will leave you simultaneously enlightened and
— Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News
For more than two years, Egyptians have turned out in massive numbers to occupy Cairo's Tahrir Square and demand change from their leaders. During the many dramatic shifts over that time, director Jehane Noujaim (Control Room) and her crew documented the events in the square alongside a number of young revolutionaries, whose differing backgrounds (from poor to privileged, secular to deeply religious) afforded the filmmakers a fascinating array of perspectives through which to view these momentous events. Moving from the euphoria accompanying the overthrow of the corrupt, three-decade regime of Hosni Mubarak through the shifting alliances between the military, the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular, progressive left to assert control over the country's future, The Square is
an essential, on-the-ground chronicle of one of the most crucial periods in the history of the modern Middle East.
Thursday, February 27 at 8 p.m.
Introduction by Sonia Verma, Journalist and Editorial Board Member, The Globe and Mail

In the Shadow of the Sun, dir. Harry Freeland
Tanzania/United Kingdom | 2013 | 88 min. | 14A
"moving and inspirational ... a fine example of how documentaries can cast international light on local heroes"
— The Hollywood Reporter
For hundreds of years, Africans born with albinism have been feared and rejected by their communities. Filmed in Tanzania over the course of six years, during which time there was an escalation in the brutal murders or mutilations of people with albinism, Harry Freeland's intimate and emotional documentary follows two albino men as they pursue their dreams in the face of this virulent prejudice: Josephat Torner, who works for an international NGO in Dar Es Salaam and has spent his life as an albino rights campaigner; and fourteen-year-old Vedastus Zangule, who was abandoned by his father at birth and who has been bullied out of school. A story of deep-rooted superstition, painful suffering and incredible, inspiring strength.
Friday, February 28 at 6:30 p.m.

Bethlehem, dir. Yuval Adler
Israel | 2013 | 100 min. | 14A
Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival 2013
“…a powerful debut that strips away the politics of its scenario to get at the emotional conundrums beneath.”
— Eric Kohn, IndieWire
Recruited at age 15 as an informant for the Israeli secret service Shin Bet, Palestinian teenager Sanfur (Sahdi Marei) has found in his relationship with his Israeli handler Razi (Tsahi Halevi) the tenderness, respect, and attention than he ever found at home. But as it gradually becomes clear that Shin Bet is plotting to assassinate his militant brother, Sanfur finds his loyalties hopelessly divided. Directed by first-time feature filmmaker Yuval Adler (who himself worked for Shin Bet for several years), co-written by Adler and Muslim journalist Ali Waked, and based on years of research and numerous interviews with Shin Bet operatives and Palestinian militants, Bethlehem is both a gripping thriller and a forceful political drama that will have you talking, and thinking, long after the end credits roll.
Saturday, March 1 at 7:15 p.m.

Saving Face, dirs. Daniel Junge, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
USA/Pakistan | 2012 | 52 min. | 14A
2012 Academy Award® Winner – Best Documentary Short
Every year in Pakistan, numerous women are known to be victimized by brutal acid attacks, while numerous other cases go unreported. With little or no access to reconstructive surgery, survivors are physically and emotionally scarred, while many reported assailants, often a husband or someone else known by the victim, receive minimal if any punishment from the state. Recently honoured with the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short, Saving Face follows two acid-attack survivors — Zakia, whose husband attacked her outside a courthouse when she filed for divorce, and Rukhsana, whose spouse attacked her in the marital home where she still lives, as she cannot afford to care for her children alone — as they attempt to bring their assailants to justice and move on with their lives. An intimate and incisive look inside contemporary Pakistani society, Saving Face both illuminates each woman's personal journey while showing how reformers are tackling this horrific problem.
Sunday, March 2 at 3:30 p.m.

The Missing Picture dir. Rithy Panh
Cambodia/France | 2013 | 90 min. | 14A
Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival 2013
Un Certain Regard, Cannes Film Festival 2013
“… a sobering, ultimately numbing peek into the living hell of 1970s Cambodia.”
— Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter
Cambodian-born director Rithy Panh has spent the last two decades chronicling the ravages visited upon his country by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime in such essential films as S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine and Duch, Master of the Forges of Hell. With The Missing Picture, which took home the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes last year, Panh offers his most autobiographical and eerily beautiful film on the subject to date, exploring the suffering his own family endured after the Khmer Rouge entered Panh's hometown of Phnom Penh through a novel, and daring, artistic strategy: as all extant visual material from the period is sheer Khmer Rouge propaganda, Panh visualizes the events through the use of handmade clay figurines and detailed dioramas. Provocative, painful, and ultimately transcendent, The Missing Picture transforms Panh's search for a seemingly irrecoverable past into both an artistic and a historical triumph.
Monday, March 3 at 6:30 p.m.
Introduction and Q&A with Phelim Kine, Asia Division Deputy Director, Human Rights Watch

Valentine Road, dir. Marta Cunningham
USA | 2013 | 89 min. | PG
“... an important film, especially now when the legalization of gay marriage in a few states and the appearance of gay characters on
television can make it seem that being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is no longer an issue"
— Mary McNamara, The Los Angeles Times
In a suburban California schoolyard in February 2008, an openly gay 15-year-old boy named Larry King asked his 14-year-old classmate Brandon McInerney to be his valentine; the next day, Larry was dead, shot at point-blank range by his crush. Delving into the backgrounds of both victim and killer and chronicling McInerney's controversial trial, first-time feature filmmaker Marta Cunningham's Valentine Road bores deeply into the homophobia, sexism, racism and classism that inform the lives of America's youth, and reveals an American justice system that is utterly unprepared to deal with the realities of teenage crime and punishment.
Tuesday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m.
Introduction and Q&A with Graeme Reid, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program Director, Human Rights Watch

Big Men, dir. Rachel Boynton
USA | 2013 | 99 min. | 14A
“… not only an examination of the inner workings of international capitalism but a look at the vagaries of human nature as well.”
— Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
Following Our Brand Is Crisis, her award-winning exposé of political campaign marketing, director Rachel Boynton takes aim at the global energy industry with Big Men, which takes us inside the boardrooms of the Dallas-based oil company Kosmos Energy as it discovers an enormous oil field off the coast of Ghana and sets about developing the find into the first commercial oil field in the country's history. Granted unprecedented access to the inner workings of the firm, Boynton produces a vivid portrait of corporate ambition, corruption and greed, and parallels this white-collar rapaciousness with the exploits of a militant gang in the swamps of Nigeria's Niger Delta, who — having given up on the prospect of any money from these billion-dollar deals actually trickling down to the people — are determined to profit in any way possible from the oil strike in their region. Executive produced by Steven Shainberg (Secretary) and Brad Pitt, Big Men is a startling look at global capitalism in action.
Wednesday, March 5 at 6:30 p.m.

Highway of Tears, dir. Matthew Smiley
Canada | 2013 | 76 min. | 14A
Since the late 1960s, at least 18 young women — many of them from disadvantaged First Nations communities — have disappeared or been found murdered along the 724-kilometre stretch of Highway 16 in northern British Columbia. None of these cold cases were ever solved until 2009, when a special RCMP investigation was able to link DNA from one of the murder victims to deceased US
criminal Bobby Jack Fowler; but this single answer has done little to heal the wounds of Aboriginal communities who have seen dozens of their young women vanish along the "Highway of Tears," victims not only of murderous predators but of the systemic racism of a federal government that keeps them trapped on impoverished reservations and, as critics charge, evinced little interest in apprehending their killers. Narrated by Nathan Fillion, Matt Smiley's hard-hitting documentary Highway of Tears not only movingly relates the personal stories of the victims, but investigates how the legacy of generational poverty, high unemployment and endemic violence in their communities contributed to their tragic fates — and how contemporary First Nations leaders are striving to cure those ills.
Thursday, March 6 at 6:30 p.m.
Introduction with filmmaker Matt Smiley and producer Carly Pope alongside Samer Muscati and Meghan Rhoad, Human Rights Watch
researchers, Women's Rights Division.

Social Media:
@TIFF_NET, @hrwfilmfestival

About Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse. For over 30 years, Human Rights Watch has worked tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and has fought to bring greater justice and security to people around the world.

About TIFF
TIFF is a charitable cultural organization whose mission is to transform the way people see the world through film. An international leader in film culture, TIFF projects include the annual Toronto International Film Festival in September; TIFF Bell Lightbox, which features five cinemas, major exhibitions, and learning and entertainment facilities; and innovative national distribution program Film Circuit. The organization generates an annual economic impact of $189 million CAD. TIFF Bell Lightbox is generously supported by contributors including Founding Sponsor Bell, the Province of Ontario, the Government of Canada, the City of Toronto, the Reitman family (Ivan Reitman, Agi Mandel and Susan Michaels), The Daniels Corporation and RBC. For more information, visit

TIFF is generously supported by Lead Sponsor Bell, Major Sponsors RBC, L'Oréal Paris and Visa, and Major Supporters the Government of Canada, the Government of Ontario, and the City of Toronto.

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